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International Day and Women and Girls in Science

Today marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science and we would like to take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on, and celebrate, our female staff members who have forged careers in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – Ms Begley, Mrs Wright and Mrs Groeneveld.

Ms Begley, Head of Science

Many of you may know that I have worked at Beechwood for 20 years but what you may not know is that before training to become a teacher I worked as a Research Technician at NIBSC (National Institute of Biological Standards and Controls).  During my time at NIBSC I was part of the Virology Department under the supervision of Professor Philip Minor, a renowned virologist.  I worked specifically on the epidemiology of the mumps virus with Dr Afzal.  Together we wrote many papers which were published in scientific journals.  On a daily basis, I cultured virus from samples sent to our lab from across the world.  From these samples I then extracted the RNA, ran PCR and sequenced RNA to compare mumps virus strains from across the globe.  This information then helped with the decisions for the production of mumps vaccines.  At this time all of these techniques were ground breaking as previously it had been difficult to study viruses at such a level.

Although this was an enjoyable and rewarding time of my working career, I had always wanted to be a teacher.  It was important for to me to experience working as a Scientist before embarking on a career in teaching Science.  This early experience still enriches my teaching today and I am very glad I had the opportunity to work in Scientific research.

Mrs Wright, Head of Mathematics

Before entering the wonderful world of teaching, I was a Structural Engineer and Project Manager on large-scale construction projects in Edinburgh, Sellafield Nuclear Site and London.  Structural engineers are responsible for designing structures that can withstand the pressures of weather and other forces. They must ensure that buildings do not collapse, vibrate, twist or bend! Project Managers oversee the planning and delivery of construction projects. They ensure that work is completed on time and within budget, and they need to manage the input from many different team members, such as construction managers; mechanical and electrical engineers; architects and quantity surveyors.

I loved the variety of my job and that each day was different (much like teaching!) . I have been part of projects that involved:

  • constructing bridges;
  • water treatment works;
  • nuclear storage facilities;
  • housing developments;
  • a theatre;
  • mixed use residential and commercial developments with facilities such as shops; apartments; art galleries and gyms.

Underpinning everything I did (quite literally) was my knowledge and love of mathematics. It is amazing how much we rely on maths in our everyday lives and don’t even realise it. From staircases and elevators; to skyscrapers and roller-coasters, maths and science are there making sure that we are safe and only limited by our imagination!

Being female, I was often in the minority, both at university and in the workplace. However, I was also surrounded by supportive teachers. lecturers and colleagues and I soon learned that they valued my opinion and that I had a lot to offer.  Choosing that career path not only showed me how to be successful as an Engineer and Project Manager, but it also taught me to stand up and stand out and make my voice heard. I think it’s wonderful that more young women are entering STEM professions and would encourage anyone who is interested to go for it!

Mrs Groenveld, Teacher of Mathematics and Sport

Unlike my colleagues above, I have only ever been a teacher, my parents said that they knew my career path from a young age (as I was bossy) but they didn’t know in what subject area I would specialise due to my breadth of interests. I pursued my teaching degree and was in a blessed situation to be able to teach both Maths and Physical Education.

Obviously, my role as a maths teacher sees me being an advocate for women in STEM but my PE role offered a plethora of opportunities to boost the cross curricular links of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

The GCSE and A level PE courses allowed me to teach a broad set of applied sciences, my favourites being Sport Psychology and Anatomy & Physiology. I loved these as both a learner and a teacher; exploring our fascinating and quite remarkable bodies and how they are programmed to help us survive and succeed. From our brains to our hearts and what makes us tick is incredible and the programming of thoughts and actions in just discombobulating (word of the week)!

Within my last school I was also luckily able to take my exam group to a university and use their labs in the analysis of our physiological make up. It was extraordinary to see some of the technology being used to help our athletes achieve success, from ice baths to designing the aerodynamic race suits. Below is some example of ways we use STEM in sport:

Sports Applying Science Applying STEM
Athletics Force, energy systems, centre of gravity, angles Newton's Laws: Different energy systems in short/long distance Angle of release in throwing events such as shot putt, discus to maximise the distance.
Swimming Axial Rotation, drag, conservation of energy. Use of axial rotation to initiate the underwater pull. Energy transfer in the pool. The relationship between swimwear and drag
Badminton Force, angular and linear motion. Newton's Laws of motion: Differences between trajectories of feathered and plastic shuttlecocks Mechanics of grip length

So I am obviously a huge maths fan, but I adore how maths and all STEM subjects can be used in PE! It is not just chucking a ball, it’s the nervous system sending the impulses; it’s the muscles contracting and relaxing to set the motion; it’s the visual and auditory stimulus of when to release; it’s the haemoglobin delivering the oxygen to the muscles in order to make the muscles contract, it’s the heart pumping faster and harder when the intensity of work has increased; it’s the vascular shunting so that all essential organs have oxygen but also the muscles working; its is my behavioural traits and psychological makeup whether I make the pass in time or crumble under the pressure; it’s the mental rehearsal that I have in my brain to fire the bodies programming in and put the correct force on the ball in order to make the pass a success…….… the list goes on. Our bodies and our STEM subjects rock!


Thank you to Ms Begley, Mrs Wright and Mrs Groenveld for sharing their inspiring stories with us – we are sure there are plenty of Beechwood girls who will have equally impressive stories to tell in years to come!

You can find out more about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day here